Featured Craftsman

Joe Meling

Joe Meling

I have been involved in rodeo my entire life and continue to work the production side of rodeos and bull riding events. As a young bull rider and bronc rider, when it came to leather goods such as belts and chaps, I had steak tastes on a burger budget. That led me to learning how to make my own things. I still remember sitting at our tiny kitchen table and cutting fringe with dull scissors on a new set of bronc riding chaps I rode with while competing for the UNLV Rodeo team my freshman year. The following year, after moving to Pendleton, Oregon, I attended a leather tooling class with Ty Skiver, a phenomenal artist and leather craftsman. The class ended after four 2 hour sessions, yet I remained a fixture in his shop for years to come. I learned to love working with leather, it’s endless possibilities, and the outlet it offers for creativity. While competing professionally as a PRCA bull rider, I began taking orders for leather goods. I saw it as being paid to learn which seemed like a great supplemental income. In 2011, after being sidelined due to a broken neck, I took a job at Ansur Saddlery in Camas, WA. It was during my time there as the resident tooler that I was introduced to Weaver and their dedication to quality.

By 2013, my wife and I decided to relocate back to Pendleton where I began my own business, 23+. It started in a back alley tucked behind a Mexican restaurant with no windows. I took on repairs along with custom orders for anything, whether I knew how to build it yet or not. I had a willingness to learn on the go, fueled by a burning desire to run a successful leather shop. Over the years I’ve had the privilege to work on a variety of projects including collaborating on custom tooled boots, tooling the Pendleton Round-Up trophy saddles, and making countless custom leather dreams come true. I have found though, that my true passion lies in drawing patterns, helping others learn, and building high quality belts. An end product’s quality is a direct reflection of the quality found in the raw materials and tools used to produce it. My respect for Weaver is rooted in their demand for quality in both the materials they sell and the tools they manufacture. I couldn’t be more excited to be teaming with Weaver Leathercraft in their efforts to continually educate people and offer more resources to further advance the leathercraft industry.

George D. Gross

George D. Gross

The pictures you see here were done using a technique I call “intricate leather surface modeling.” No swivel knives or stamping tools are ever used, and all work is 100% detail driven.

Only three tools were used to do these pictures: two modeling tools, one of them 1/64" wide and one of them 1/32" wide for detail forming, and a stylus for tracing and background texture.

These tools are handmade from spring steel wire and shaped and reshaped until they do exactly what I need them to do.

As important as the tools are for forming very small details, the leather must also possess certain qualities that will allow it to not only accept these details but also retain their shape regardless of their complexity.

The photos you see here were done on Weaver Select tooling leather.

I was recently introduced to this leather at a leather show where I was able to play around with a piece of it. Not only is this leather free of any blemishes, it seems to be somewhat stiffer and close-grained, which allows me to form much smaller and more exact details than I ever could with softer leather where those details would either just rise back up or run the risk of being overworked.

It also takes Hi-Liter and antique finish better than other leathers I’ve tried.

All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with my results, and I am eager to see how much more this leather will let me accomplish.

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